Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Road to Morocco

In Recipes on June 24, 2011 at 4:13 am

From Spain it is only a short trip over the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangiers in Morocco.  I haven’t been to Morocco but I have been fascinated with the place (and North Africa in general) since reading Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky many years ago.  Before I die I definitely want to visit the souqs, spice markets and medinas of Tangiers, Marrakech and Fes.  Moroccan cuisine is now fairly well known around the world with the most famous dishes being tagine (a type of  stew named after the conical lidded pot in which it is cooked, there are endless variations) and cous cous.  These are, of course, a huge part of Moroccan cuisine but I thought I would look around for something different.  I found it in Meera Freeman’s A Season in Morocco.  A specialty of the region around the small town of Rissani on the edge of the Sahara, Medfouna is a type of flat bread stuffed with meat, onions and spices –  including the famous Moroccan spice mix Ras el Hanout.  The semolina dough takes a little work but it is worth it, the resulting dish is delicious.




For the dough:

500g plain flour

500g fine semolina

30g fresh or 1 sachet active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

2 cups lukewarm water

For the filling:

5oog beef mince (lamb mince is good too)

1 large onion (finely chopped)

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)

1 tsp salt

1 tbs cumin

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp hot paprika

1 tsp Ras el Hanout


Mix the yeast with 2 tbs of water with a tsp of sugar and leave for 5 mins. or until it starts to bubble.  In a large bowl combine the flour, semolina and salt.  Add just enough water to form a stiff dough.  Cover and leave for 15 mins.  Knead vigorously, gradually knuckling in the rest of the water and kneading for 20 mins. until the dough is pliable and elastic.  Cover and set aside to rise for an hour.

Mix the mince with the onion, parsley, salt and spices.  Knead with your hands to combine well.  Divide the bread dough into 4 pieces.  Roll out one of the pieces to a disc about 1 cm thick (even thinner is better) and spread it with 1/2 the filling, leaving 3cm around the edges.  Make a disc with the second piece of dough and place it on top.  Seal the edges and shape the whole into a round, flat loaf.  Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough and the other 1/2 of the filling.  Cover the loaves and set aside to rise for an hour or so.  Prick the top in several places to allow the steam to escape.  Bake in a hot oven (210c) for 30-40 mins. until golden brown.

Ras el Hanout


2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cardamon

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground anise seeds

1/4 tsp ground cloves


Mix all ingredients together.  Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until ready for use.

Time for Tapas

In Recipes on June 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

After a recent trip to my parents’ place on the Bellarine Peninsula I sat at home trying to think what I could do with the beautiful  freshly laid eggs they had given me.  Tortilla de Patata or Spanish Potato Omelet seemed an obvious choice.  When most people think of tortillas they think of the corn or flour tortillas of Mexico.  Delicious though these are, the Spanish tortilla is different being more like an Italian frittata.  Cut into small wedges it is a common dish in tapas bars throughout Spain and, indeed,  the rest of the world.  In its simplest form it is just potatoes, onions, eggs and plenty of olive oil.  I added some chopped parsley and paprika for a bit of extra flavour.  Other ingredients you could add are chopped cooked chorizo, chopped roasted red peppers, chopped pitted olives – the possibilities are  endless.  Just remember that the potatoes are supposed to be the feature of this dish.

To go with the Tortilla de Patata I made another common tapas dish.  These tasty little meatballs in a rich, red wine sauce are called Albondigas.  In a tapas bar four or five of them would normally be served, as a snack, in a little flat earthern ware bowl.  If you wanted them as a meal you could serve a few more of them with a wedge of Tortilla de Patata and a salad.

Tortilla de Patata

Tortilla de Patata 


6-7 medium potatoes (peeled)

1 onion (peeled)

5-6 large eggs

2 tbs flat leaved parsley (finely chopped)

1 tsp paprika

1 cup olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cut the peeled potatoes into slices about 3-5 mm thick.  Season.  Halve the onion and finely slice.  Set aside.  Heat about a 1/2 cup of oil in a large, heavy based frying pan over medium heat.  Not too hot!  Gently cook the slices of potato in batches adding the onions with the last batch.  Try to make sure the potato slices are covered in the oil.  The potatoes are not meant to be brown, just cooked through and tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove and drain.

Whisk the eggs with the parsley, paprika and salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes and onions and mix well to make sure all the slices are coated in the egg.  Heat 2-3 tbs olive oil in a heavy based or non stick pan.  Use a pastry brush to oil sides of pan.  Pour in the potato and egg mixture making sure to spread it out evenly.  Allow the egg the cook around the edges then carefully lift the side of the tortilla to see if the bottom has browned.  When brown invert the tortilla on to a large plate.  Put a little more oil in the pan and slide the tortilla back in.  Cook for 3-4 mins.  Slide on to a plate to serve.

Hint:  if you are a bit apprehensive about inverting the tortilla on a plate and then sliding it back into the pan you can just brown the top of the tortilla under an overhead grill, let it cool a bit and then invert it on to a plate to serve.


Albondigas or Spanish Meatballs  


600 g pork mince

3 tbs Italian parsley (finely chopped)

1-2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/3 tsp ground nutmeg or 1/3 of a whole nutmeg (grated)

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 large egg (beaten)

2 tbs olive oil

2 onions (finely chopped)

1 tbs flour plus more for dusting the meatballs

1 tbs tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup water

sunflower oil for frying

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Soak breadcrumbs in the milk.  Set aside.  Mix pork mince, parsley and garlic together.  Refrigerate.  Heat the olive oil n a large, heavy based pan.  Add the onions and cook until soft (about 5 mins).  Add tomato paste and stir for 1 min.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 min.  Add wine and bay leaf, reduce to a low simmer.  Add water and salt and pepper.  Cook gently for 15 mins or until sauce has lightly thickened.  At this stage you can sieve the sauce for a smoother result.  I didn’t bother.  Set sauce aside.

Squeeze milk from breadcrumbs and add to meat mixture along with the egg and 2 tbs of the wine sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Roll into small balls about the size of a golf ball.  Dust with flour.  Heat about 1 cm of sunflower oil in the bottom of a heavy based pan.  Fry the meatballs until brown, turning occasionally and shaking the pan gently to make sure they aren’t sticking.  Remove from pan and drain on a wire rack.  Drain oil from pan, add wine sauce, stir.  Add meatballs to sauce and simmer until meatballs are cooked through.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

South of the border, down Mexico way…

In Recipes on June 6, 2011 at 4:46 am

Don’t stray down there folks or you’ll end up betrayed, lovelorn and left for dead, just like the girl in the Patsy Cline song.  Seriously though, I haven’t cooked any Mexican food for a while* so I thought it was time to look for some new Mexican recipes.  I have been reading, My Mexico, by Dianne Kennedy, this substantial book is a travelogue and food guide to Mexico and its diverse regions but its main focus is the over three hundred recipes contained within its solid covers.  This one for Pollo Almendrado or Chicken in Almond Sauce is from the fertile valley town of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico.  I have altered the recipe slightly by roasting my chicken to my own specifications  rather than poaching it as Diane Kennedy does.  I have then made the sauce separately.  You could serve this sauce with other meats such as beef or pork and it would work just as well.

Almendrado Sauce

Pollo Almendrado or Chicken in Almond Sauce


For the chicken:

1 free range chicken (about 1.5-2 kg)

2 jalapeno chillies (quartered lengthwise)

1 lime (quartered)

1 lemon (quartered)

4 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)

1 cinnamon stick

olive oil

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp sweet paprika

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the chillies, citrus, cinnamon stick and garlic pieces.  Rub the outside with olive oil.  Season. Sprinkle with chilli flakes and paprika.  Roast in the usual manner**

For the sauce:

1 tin diced Italian tomatoes

sunflower oil for frying

1 1/2cups raisins

1 cup slivered almonds

3 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)

1 medium brown onion (sliced)

1/2 a slightly under ripe banana or plantain (chopped)

1 slice rich bread such as challah (cubed)***

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

2 whole black peppercorns

3 cups chicken stock

1 sprig flat leaved parsley

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish: 1 jalapeno chilli, 1 long red chilli, 1 long green chilli (chopped), 1 lime


Place a little olive oil in a pan and toast the sesame seeds until golden brown and fragrant.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Put a little more oil in the pan and brown the almonds, onions, garlic, bread and raisins adding them in that order.  Remove from pan and set aside to cool.  Put 1 cup chicken stock in a food processor or blender.   Add the torn parsley and the sesame seed a bit at a time.  Blend until smooth.  Gradually add the almond and raisin mixture along with another cup of chicken stock.  When smooth transfer to a lightly oiled pot, add tomatoes, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns and another cup of chicken stock.  Season and simmer over a low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until sauce has reduced to 1/3 of its original volume.  Make sure to stir regularly as the sweet raisins in the sauce make it prone to ‘catching’ on the bottom of the pot.  I finished my sauce with 1 chopped jalapeno chilli, 1 chopped long red chilli and i choopped long green chilli.  A squeeze of lime juice or lemon juice just adds the final touch.

* see ‘Fire in the Mole‘ and ‘ I feel a hot wind on my shoulder…

** see ‘You may have the parson’s nose

*** you could use brioche or pannettone